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Smallpox Vaccine


The smallpox vaccine is an injection given to help prevent smallpox. Smallpox is a disease caused by a virus. Symptoms of smallpox include fever, rash, and blisters that spread over the body. Smallpox is no longer a threat. The disease was eliminated worldwide by 1980 through the use of vaccines.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your mouth and throat are swollen.
  • You are wheezing or have trouble breathing.
  • You have chest pain or your heart is beating faster than normal for you.
  • You feel like you are going to faint.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your face is red or swollen.
  • You have hives that spread over your body.
  • You feel weak or dizzy.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever and a headache.
  • You have swollen lymph glands in your armpits.
  • You think the virus has spread to another part of your body.
  • Your wound from the vaccine gets larger or does not heal.
  • You have questions or concerns about the smallpox vaccine.

What to expect after you get the smallpox vaccine:

Within 5 days, a small bump forms on the area where the vaccine was given. Within 10 days, the bump becomes filled with fluid and pus, and reaches its biggest size. Within 21 days, the bump dries up and forms a scab. The scab then falls off after 3 to 4 weeks and leaves a scar. You may have any of the following reactions after getting the vaccine:

  • Pain, itching, and inflammation around the vaccine area
  • Swollen lymph glands in your armpits
  • Fever

Protect the area where you were vaccinated:

The vaccine can be spread before the scab falls off. Contact with the vaccinated area may easily spread the virus to other parts of your body. You may also spread the virus to other people through direct contact. The following may help prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Do not scratch or touch the vaccinated area on your arm.
  • Do not towel dry the area where the vaccine was given. Cover the area with a waterproof bandage when you bathe.
  • Place a bandage over the vaccinated area. Wear a shirt with sleeves long enough to cover the vaccinated area.
  • Wash clothes and bedding with water and a germ-killing solution.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water right away if you touch the vaccinated area.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.